Nikon Coolpix P300 f/1.8 Manual Pocket Camera

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Nikon Coolpix P300 Pocket Camera With f/1.8 LensListen up camera nerds and professional photographers! Nikon has stepped into the high-end pocket camera ring to compete with Olympus, Panasonic and Canon. The Nikon Coolpix P300 has a 12-megapixel CMOS sensor, full manual exposure controls, 1080p HD video, and – here’s the best part – an f/1.8 lens for better low light shooting and depth-of-field control. And yes – it really will fit in your pocket.

It’s hard to draw clear category lines with high-end compact cameras. But for me, a camera that actually fits in my pocket is a big deal. I listed Canon, Olympus and Panasonic in my intro. But to be fair, the only other truly pocket-sized high-end compact is the Canon PowerShot S95. The new Olympus XZ-1 is beautiful, and it was the first compact with an f/1.8 lens. But it’s actually a bit large to fit comfortably in a pants pocket – especially since the lens protrudes a bit even when the camera is turned off. Same with the Panasonic Lumix LX5. But since not everyone shares my definition of pocket-sized, I am being charitable here.

Nikon Coolpix P300 pocket camera with f/1.8 lens and manual exposure controls

I’ve had a Nikon Coolpix S8100 pocket superzoom camera to play with for a few weeks (read my Nikon Coolpix S8100 preview video and article). The first thing I did when I got the Nikon P300 press material was compare the dimensions to the S8100 to find out if the P300 is really a pocket camera. It’s pretty much exactly the same size as the S8100 and when it’s turned off the lens retreats completely into the body. So the answer is, yes – the P300 is most definitely a pocket camera. It’s a pocket camera with an f/1.8 lens (24-100mm f/1.8-4.9), full manual exposure control and 1080p HD video. Can I get a “hell yeah!!?”

Of course, you never can have it all. Digging into the specs and doing some careful comparison, I found a couple of downsides to the P300. While it does have a super fast f/1.8 aperture at the wide end of the zoom range, when you zoom in, the f/4.9 aperture is much slower than the Olympus XZ-1′s f/2.5 maximum aperture. But I’m sure that’s how Nikon was able to keep the camera so small. The Olympus XZ-1′s big telephoto aperture requires the lens optics to be much larger and that’s why it isn’t what I consider a true pocket camera.

The second compromise with the P300 is the sensor size. It uses a 1/2.3-in sensor. That’s standard for most compact cameras but considerably smaller than the Canon Coolpix S95, the Olympus XZ-1 and the Panasonic Lumix LX5. The smaller sensor means smaller pixels and probably compromised image quality compared to those other cameras. Does it really matter? To some photographers it will and to some it won’t. After all, it is a truly pocket-sized Nikon with a great lens and full manual controls. Personally, I’ve been very pleased with the Coolpix S8100 pocket superzoom I’ve been using. And I expect it uses the exact same sensor as the P300.

The new Nikon Coolpix P300 will be at available in March of 2011 and the suggested retail price is $329.95. If you want one, I suggest getting your pre-order in ASAP. I expect the P300 is going to be a hot seller.

Nikon Coolpix P300 Press Release >>

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Nikon Coolpix P300 pocket camera w f/1.8 lens and manual exposure controls

Nikon Coolpix P300 premium pocket camera - closed

About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • thien says:

    Loving the fact that more and more companies are coming out with fast pocket cams!

  • Photo-John says:

    Yeah, Thien. It should have happened years ago. But better late than never. Personally, I’m waiting for a pocket superzoom with RAW, manual controls and a big sensor :-D

  • GORDIE G says:

    I’m waiting for that too.But I don’t think it will happen due to that will cut into dslr and selling lenses market.

  • PJ says:

    This camera will come out without RAW-Shooting capability….huge downside!

  • Jan says:

    Calling f/1.8-4.9 a “f/1.8″ fast camera is terrible and no RAW support is a major fail. So it seems that Nikon decided to not compete with either really fast XZ-1 or S95 supporting RAW. Ah, and the smallest sensor available. Epic fail, cheaper Samsung WB2000 looks better.

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Nice, looks a lot like my Canon S90, I am liking this whole genre, since it’s what I always carry while biking.

  • Doug says:

    Sounds like a great camera but the smaller size of the image sensor does concern me when comparing it with the Canon S95. I like the fact that the Nikon has the F1.8 as compared to the Canon’s F2.0 so it’s a trade off either way. Now why can’t just one camera maker get it ALL right by having the F1.8 bright lens, optical image stabilization, noise reduction on any shutter speed slower than 1/20 of a second, and a medium to large image sensor, and 16:9 ratio wide screen still photos, and at least 720 X 1200 res. HD video. Is that too much to ask. The 1080 x 1900 HD is a little too big for most computer monitor screen set ups, so a well designed camera should offer a choice of either 720 or 1080. I prefer the 720 but then i don’t have the large screen HD TV to play my videos on. But I am so glad to see that camera makers are starting to give photographers what we want. Now all they have to do is to lower the price on the good cameras instead of scalping us. There is no reason why this new Nikon should be priced so high except that all the rest of the Nikon cameras have slow lens (mostly F2.8 and even 3.3 and worse) so their one fast camera with a decent fast lens will be in demand. Nikon and all other camera makers please give us more choices with good, fast lens and quite producing so many cameras with slooooo lens.

  • twain says:

    Looks like a Casio from the front. Do you find that the lens is prone to opening in your pocket either through the aperture or accidental powering on? That’s my main beef with Casios.

  • cats says:

    I’m also interested to know more how Nikon P300 image quality compare to the other competitor. Yes, it is smaller sensor compare to S95 or lx5 but nikon use what’s called “back illuminated CMOS sensor”. The sensor allows the camera to produce high speed and better low light performance compare to CCD sensor counterpart.

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